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What to see and do in Rotorua – a guide to notable activities and attractions

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Like many areas of New Zealand, Rotorua offers a plethora of adrenaline activities, from bungy jumping to jet boating. However, be sure to check out Rotorua’s big three: raft the Kaituna River, mountain bike through Whakarewarewa Forest and climb into a giant inflatable ball for a zorbing experience. Fancy something a little more chilled? Discover the Maori traditions at Tamaki Maori Village, or fish the Tongariro River – a world famous angling spot.

Mike Watt

My Destination local expert on

Rotorua (NZ)

Skyline Gondola

 

Ride the gondola to the flank of Mount Ngongotaha, where you’ll climb nearly 500 metres above the city. Take in glorious views of Lake Rotorua and the spread of buildings and geothermal sites below, then head on to some of the other attractions at this height. Skyline Rotorua features an attractive mountain-side restaurant and cafe, with magical night time views over the city, while extra calories can be worked off at the world-famous luge center or on the hair-raising Skyswing, which shoots you into the sky at speeds of up to 120kph.

 

Polynesian Spa

 

Thriving on Rotorua’s natural hot mineral pools, Polynesian Spa has transformed the local geothermal energy into a globally-recognised spa experience and a must-visit Rotorua attraction. With an idyllic location on the shores of Lake Rotorua, the spa promises perfect relaxation in a choice of four different bathing areas. Soak in the mineral-rich waters, unwind on geothermally-heated recliners or indulge with a luxurious spa massage.

 

Rainbow Springs

 

This wildlife park is one of Rotorua’s top attractions; a maze of walkways through giant redwood and kauri trees, with a chance to spot all kinds of native and imported species. Meet a selection of lively birds, including the kaka parrot and New Zealand’s national symbol, the kiwi – learn about these feathery creatures on the Behind the Scenes Kiwi Encounter Tour. The park also features the interactive ride ‘Big Splash’, where visitors ride boats through a dinosaur-infested forest, complete with a ‘big splash’ finale!

 

Whakarewarewa Forest

 

Largely planted in 1901 as an exotic tree experiment, Whakarewarewa Forest is a haven for outdoor activities and is home to some of the best mountain biking trails in the world. A five minute drive from the city center, the lush forest is Rotorua’s playground for hikers, horse riders and mountain bikers. Head to Redwood Grove for the start of a range of walking trails through a magnificent stand of Californian Redwood trees, while biking trails crisscross the forest, from Grade two through to Grade six.

 

Zorbing

 

Although zorbing is an extreme sport now offered around the globe, its original home is Rotorua and therefore it’s a must-try while in the area. This strange activity involves climbing into a giant inflatable ball which rolls through a downhill course; choose to be strapped in tight or tumble around freely in 40 litres of water. There are several companies offering the zorbing experience in Rotorua – highlights include a breathtaking view over Lake Rotorua, the world’s longest zig-zag ride and a bubbling hot tub post-zorb.

 

Te Puia

 

One of New Zealand’s premier Maori cultural attractions, Te Puia can be found to the south of Rotorua, in Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley. Home to a whole host of attractions, Te Puia features boiling mud pools, explosive geysers and vibrant examples of traditional Maori culture. An exciting highlight is the Pohutu Geyser, which spurts water up 30 metres high – combine such geothermal attractions with a tour of the Maori sites, which include the National Carving School and National Weaving School, where you can watch Maori craftsmen at work.

 

Rafting on the Kaituna River

 

An opal-green waterway emptying into the Bay of Plenty, the Kaituna River is a world famous white-water rafting destination. Delighting rafters with the shade of lush rainforest and rushing white rapids, the Kaituna River also boasts the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world; a seven meter drop into a raging torrent of water. Raft with a local tour group, go it alone in a kayak, or try the free-flowing sport of white water sledging, where you float downstream armed with flippers and a board.

 

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